Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700 review: Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700

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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good The Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700's high-resolution screen rivals the new iPad's display in sharpness and clarity. Also, apps launch quickly, GPS works well, and its rear camera is the best I've seen on any Android tablet. The tablet's body has the same great thin and light design as the Prime.

The Bad So far, not enough Android apps take advantage of the TF700's higher pixel count and the Tegra 3 has trouble keeping up with newer games. Also, its battery life isn't as good as the Prime's.

The Bottom Line The Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700 combines an already proven design with a better camera, a faster processor, and a beautiful screen.

7.7 Overall
  • Design 8.0
  • Features 8.0
  • Performance 7.0
Editors' note: We've lowered the performance score of the TF700 by one point to better reflect some of the sluggishness the tablet exibits when attempting to run some of the newer, more demanding games in the Play Store.

The Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700 is the Transformer Prime as it should have been. A Gandalf the White to the Prime's Saruman. Asus has clearly listened to the grievances -- most notably, GPS issues -- of some Prime owners, and in most cases addresses said grievances and then some.

The TF700 is more than just an upgrade to the Prime. It's also a chance to represent the full potential of the Transformer line, and despite having relatively little support from the Android OS, Asus succeeds at doing just that.

Design
The Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700 is like a slightly modified, alternate-universe version of the Asus Transformer Prime TF201. It has all the same ports and connections (Micro-HDMI, microSD, headphone jack, microphone, and reset pinholes), but their placement on the tablet's body have been slightly adjusted. For example, where the volume rocker was located on the Prime's left edge (in landscape mode), it's located on the top right edge on the TF700. While these small changes could be annoying for Prime or TF300 users looking to upgrade, it's something you get used to quickly.

The TF700 measures 0.33 inch thick -- compared with the Prime's 0.32 inch -- and it encloses its innards in an almost complete aluminum unibody design. Almost, but not quite. The TF700 sports a unique back-panel design that replaces a small portion of the metal back with a tabletwide, inch-long plastic panel. The thought here is that enclosing the GPS radio in plastic rather than metal will allow the GPS signal to more easily enter and exit the tablet. The original Prime suffered difficulties when attempting to connect to GPS satellites, thanks to its aluminum unibody.

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The TF700 is just a hair thicker than the Prime. Josh Miller/CNET

Despite the few, small design changes, the TF700 feels just as light and comfortable to hold as the Prime does.

Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700 Asus Transformer Pad TF300 Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime TF201 Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Apple iPad (2012)
Weight in pounds 1.32 1.4 1.32 1.24 1.44
Width in inches (landscape) 10.4 10.4 10.4 10.1 9.5
Height in inches 7.1 7.1 7.1 6.9 7.3
Depth in inches 0.33 0.38 0.32 0.34 0.37
Side bezel width in inches (landscape) 0.8 0.8 0.8 0.8 0.8

The power/sleep button is now much more easily depressible, delivering a satisfying snap when pressed. On the top side of the bezel is a 2-megapixel front camera, upgraded from the 1.2-megapixel camera previous Transformer tablets housed. Opposite it, on the back, is an 8-megapixel, LED-supported camera, with a microphone pinhole to its left.

Our TF700 model sported a Amethyst Gray finish with a smooth, metallic back and an embossed silver Asus logo in the middle. If colors that evoke a more festive sensation are desired, the tablet also comes in Champagne Gold. Along the right side of the back are a collection of small speaker holes, arranged more narrowly than the Prime's.

The TF700 easily slides into its $150 optional keyboard dock. The dock is also compatible with the Prime as long as you're running the latest firmware. Thanks to small design differences, the TF300, unfortunately, isn't officially compatible with the other Transformer tablet docks.

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The somewhat cramped keyboard wouldn't be my first choice to type on, but who can resist a keyboard that floats in midair? Josh Miller/CNET

The keyboard dock itself appears identical to the Prime's, with its metal body giving it a substantial, well-built feel. It's comfortable, if maybe slightly cramped for large hands like mine, and while the buttons are smaller than a MacBook Air's, they're fairly soft and well-spaced. Using this keyboard on a regular basis wouldn't be my first choice, but I could see myself getting used to its somewhat cramped (for my hands) feel after a while.

Software features
The TF700 is the second Asus tablet to come preinstalled with Android 4.0.3. Check out the Android 4.0 section of the Transformer Prime TF201 review for details on what the OS brings to the table over the previous version of the Android operating system, Honeycomb.

While Android 4.0 is the best version of the OS yet, unfortunately for the TF700, it still lags behind iOS in app support. Things have improved over the last few months, with Android getting some big game releases like Max Payne Mobile concurrently with iOS, but for every Max Payne Mobile, there are tons of great iOS games being released on weekly basis. Google still has its work cut out for it in soliciting more app developers, especially those willing to take advantage of the Tegra 3 processor.

The TF700 also comes with plenty of Asus goodies installed. Once you register the TF700, Asus MyCloud gives you 8GB of free cloud-based storage space at Asus WebStorage for the lifetime of the tablet. It also provides remote access to the desktop of a PC or Mac and connects you to the @Vibe online music and radio service.

The File Manager accesses the TF700's root directory, providing easy and organized access to every file on your drive or expanded memory unit. MyNet lets you stream (up to 1080p content) to DLNA-enabled devices on your network, and with MyLibrary, Asus' e-reader software, you can read and purchase new books directly through the interface.

With SuperNote you can not only type notes, but "write" notes with your fingers as well. You can also draw graphs and take pictures or video right from the interface. This could be especially useful for taking notes in a class or maybe getting in a little Draw Something practice.

With App Backup you can back up any installed application to the internal storage or microSD card. This makes it so you can reset your tablet without losing apps or app data. The TF700 also comes with a free Polaris Office app that pretty successfully approximates Microsoft Office, allowing users to create PowerPoint, Word, and Excel docs. Finally, App Locker lets you password-protect any app on your tablet, preventing anyone from opening it unless the correct password is entered.

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Backing up apps is simple and easy. Screenshot by Eric Franklin/CNET

Via Asus' tweaks to the Android interface, you can choose to run the Tegra 3 CPU in normal, balanced, or power-saving mode. While in normal mode, the CPU runs at full speed. In balanced mode and power-saving mode, the CPU speed is throttled to save on battery life. This CPU-throttling feature was also on the Prime and TF300, and I'm still waiting for other vendors to adopt similar modes, as they are pretty useful.

The TF700, like other Transformer tablets, allows you to take screenshots with the "recent apps" button, and one of my favorite features of the Prime that was criminally axed on the TF300 makes its triumphant return. The Super IPS+ (In-Plane Switching) mode boosts the TF700's screen brightness -- making reading in sunlight a bit easier. Huzzah!

Hardware features
Nvidia's Tegra 3 CPU is finally reaching high levels of ubiquity and makes its third appearance (so far) in an Asus tablet. The Pad TF700 version is clocked at 1.6GHz with two to four cores active and up to 1.7GHz in single-core operations, compared with 1.3GHz and 1.4GHz on the Prime, respectively.

Also, the TF700 houses 1GB of DDR3 RAM running at 1.6GHz -- as opposed to the DDR2 RAM used in the Prime. The TF700 comes in either 32GB or 64GB storage sizes and has 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi support, Bluetooth 3.0+EDR, a gyroscope, and an accelerometer.

The Mobile keyboard dock includes an extra battery that, while connected, feeds the TF700 its power, ensuring that the dock's battery will deplete its reserves before the tablet's.

Through its Micro-HDMI port, you can connect the tablet to an HDTV or monitor and play full-screen Android games using both wired Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 USB-compatible game pads, as well as supported wireless game pads through the use of an USB dongle. However, both wired controllers and the USB dongle require a full USB port, necessitating the use of the keyboard dock to accomplish this setup. When connected to a monitor, the TF700's high resolution, exemplified by sharp, smooth text and sharper images in Riptide GP, did translate to smooth images on the monitor as well.

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